University of Kentucky Resumption of Research Phased Plan

The UK Resumption of Research Phased Plan (full plan pdf, 13 pages) describes a Phased Plan of resuming research activity at the University of Kentucky (UK). These plans place public health and safety as top priorities during any phase of resumed research. The phased approach to resuming research activity will concur with all UK guidelines during the COVID-19 pandemic and will include new safety measures. There will be supplemental information related to specific areas of human research made available through online training and website materials (see below).

The following are guiding principles to resuming research activity that will be followed during each Phase:

  • Social distancing (physical distance), defined as 6 feet of separation between individuals in a workspace, will be employed whenever possible when performing all research activities and during each Phase. When 6 ft distance is not possible for some research activities, these activities must be undertaken for as short of a period of time as possible. Social distancing takes priority over the percent of normal research activity within any one Phase.
  • Appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), cleaning and disinfection procedures, consistent with UK guidelines, must be available and employed within each Phase.
  • Performing remote research activities, whenever possible, will remain as the first-choice option for all research personnel throughout these phases until further notified by the Office of the Vice President for Research (OVPR).

A. Definition and Justification for Phased Approach: We will use a phased approach to resume research activity, as premature repopulation of buildings to an unsafe level could cause a rebound in infection rates. We have chosen four Phases, with varying percentages of research activity within each Phase. This gradual resumption will decrease the likelihood of possible surges of infection and increase the time needed to obtain materials to resume more normal levels of research.

Phases of resumed research activity are defined in terms of percent activity and are as follows:

  • Phase 1 represents access restricted to only the maintenance of essential and critical research capability (15-20% of normal access). Social distancing guidelines, defined above, take priority over percent workspace occupation during this and subsequent phases.
  • Phase 2 represents 20-50% of prior research activity, with new safety measures in place.
  • Phase 3 represents 50-70% of prior research activity.
  • Phase 4 represents a return to research activities (at 70-100% of prior activity).

The following table further defines each Phase, with information to guide investigators through each Phase. In addition, after the Table, we provide additional pivotal information to guide investigators in making decisions/plans within each phase and information on processes for resuming research activities. Percent research activity within each Phase is intended as a guide to gradually ramp up research and to assist investigators to develop their individualized plans. Local conditions and state government recommendations will affect transitions from one phase to another. We have provided below examples of external conditions that can influence phased research activity. The VPR, working with senior university leadership, will provide directives and effective dates for phase transitions which will be communicated to faculty, staff and students.


  • Situation unknown and changing
  • COVID-19 hospitalizations on the rise
  • Testing limited
  • PPE shortages
  • Local and national restrictions becoming more relaxed
  • Plateau for COVID-19 hospitalizations locally
  • Testing and PPE shortages determine the specific range of ramped-up activity levels within this phase
  • Time-sensitive or critical research activities, graduate students close to degree completion prioritized as time-sensitive.
  • Activities needed to ramp up research (i.e., breeding non-commercial animals, restoring previously frozen cell lines, preparing research materials on site).
  • Seasonal data collection (field research) or research subject to external schedules.
  • Core facilities activity increases according to demand.
  • Personnel onsite only when necessary.
  • New safety measure regarding PPE, social distancing, screening and testing will be in place.
  • Principal Investigators (PIs) develop individualized plans for research workspace operations and activity using standardized template. Plans are approved by Chairs and/or unit Directors, with final authority by Deans.
  • Supply of PPE.
  • Number of critical care beds in UK HealthCare to serve both campus and community.
  • Positivity rates in local populations indicates no widespread community transmission.
  • Capacity for daily screening and ongoing contact tracing.
  • The capacity for isolation and quarantining.
  • The ability to provide residential experience on our campus.
  • Guidance from local, state and federal health and public policy officials.
  • Robust testing capacity.
  • The approach to Human Participant Research is outlined in the table on page 8, and also posted at the website for the Office of Research Integrity (ORI).
  • Special consideration to graduate students and undergraduates is detailed in Section D under Special Guidance.
  • Special consideration to early career faculty needs to resume research.
  • Core facilities open according to customer demand.
  • Attention to deadline-driven research needs.
  • Safety measures regarding PPE, social distancing, screening, and testing are in place. 
  • Supply of PPE. 
  • Number of critical care beds in UK HealthCare to serve both campus and community.
  • Low infection positivity rates in local populations over a sustained period of time.
  • Access to the COVID-19 vaccines for UK employees.
  • Capacity for daily screening and ongoing contact tracing.
  • Guidance from local, state and federal health and public policy officials.
  • Robust testing capacity. 
  • Maintain social distancing, PPE and cleaning/disinfection procedures.
  • On campus research activities at prior levels, while following following CDC and OSHA guidelines for appropriate work conditions (e.g., social distancing, shifts, hours/week, etc.).
  • Core facilities operational according to demand.
  • Building density monitored by Chairs, Center Directors and Associate Deans for Research.
  • For specifics on animal or human research refer to the appropriate regulatory office.


Phase 1 Guidance

Definition of On-campus Essential Research 

This information defined essential research activities that could be performed on campus (all UK owned, leased or managed facilities, properties and research sites) during Phase 1. 

We provided the following list of acceptable on-campus essential research activities:  

  • COVID-19 related research
  • Activity that if discontinued would result in irreplaceable data or sample loss;
  • Activity that if discontinued would pose a safety hazard;
  • Activity that maintains critical equipment or core facilities;
  • Activity that maintains critical samples, reagents, and materials;
  • Activity that maintains non-commercial animal populations;
  • Activity that maintains critically needed plant populations, tissue cultures, or other living organisms which cannot be cryopreserved;
  • Activity in support of treatment interventional human subjects research with therapeutic benefit or where stopping procedures would cause harm.

This lab safety checklist (pdf) prepared by our experts in Environmental Health and Safety guided appropriate operations for personnel on campus performing these essential research activities.  

A waiver was required for laboratories or research groups performing essential research activities at UK’s campus.

Reference materials: slides on Essential Research (pdf)

Phases 2-4 Guidance

For Phases 2-4 of resuming research, Principal Investigators (PIs) are required to use the overall plan for UK Resumption of Research Phased Plan (full plan pdf, 13 pages) to develop individualized plans for their research workspace and personnel. Please see updated guidance for including trainees in your PI Plan (p 10). Also see updated FAQs about trainees (high school students, undergrads, grad students).

All faculty who have research or creative work as part of their research mission, and who supervise trainees or staff, should complete these forms and the required training. You will undergo online training on the overall UK Resumption of Research Plan to assist you in developing your individual research plans, and also be required to take additional online training if your research involves human subjects or community-based research. These offerings are intended to assist you in completing the detailed Excel template for your research personnel, workspace usage, and hygiene/disinfecting/PPE. After you complete this template you will submit it through our online form. See links below for all of these resources.

Please identify your Chair and/or unit Director, as they will receive your individualized plan. Chairs and/or unit Directors will work with you to coordinate your plan with others, with common-use spaces, or for other issues related to your research and/or creative work. Chairs and/or unit Directors, Associate Deans for Research, and Deans will review your plan for approval.

PI Plan

UK Resumption of Research PI Plan

  • PI Online Training Module
    Log in with your link blue credentials and click "Course Material" at top to download the training, then answer the questions to receive a training completion certificate. You will upload this certificate through the plan submission form (below). 
  • PI Plan Excel Template
    After you've completed the online training module, use this template to detail your individualized plan. 
  • PI Plan Submission Form
    Complete this form and upload your training certificate and Excel file.


Human Research Phased Resumption


Environmental Health & Safety COVID-19 Cleaning Guidance